Council member expresses shock

The Baltimore Sun

News that the state prosecutor's office was searching Mayor Sheila Dixon's house gave City Hall a case of emotional whiplash yesterday.

Less than 12 hours before, the mayor and members of the City Council had retired to Little Italy for a celebratory dinner at Da Mimmo to toast the passage of the mayor's first budget.

"We were all so happy to have worked the budget out," said Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector, who called the atmosphere at the Italian restaurant "totally copacetic."

"It was definitely a celebration," said Spector.

But when Spector took her seat behind an ornate desk in council chambers yesterday morning to review legislation, her mood suddenly changed. Hearing about the raid for the first time, the councilwoman said she was "shocked" and "absolutely devastated."

"I didn't understand what you were saying at first," Spector said, her morning cup of coffee still in hand. "I am so upset."

Nonetheless, elected officials and department heads at City Hall proceeded as they do most days, running to meetings and bill hearings armed with blinking BlackBerrys and bulging dossiers. At 9 a.m., many interviewed said they were unaware of the search.

"I know nothing about [the search]," said Councilman James B. Kraft, who was at City Hall early yesterday to hold back-to-back meetings of the Public Safety and Health and Judiciary and Legislative Investigations committees. "I have no comment."

Waiting outside council chambers to address the Public Safety Committee on legislation designed to reduce the number of illegal guns on city streets, Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld III said he was aware that the mayor's house was being searched - members of Dixon's city police protection unit guard her house - but quickly added that he would make no comment about it.

"You aren't going to get a single word about it from me," he said, before shooing a reporter away in order to review documents he would present in support of the gun bill.

Spector said she was sure the city's top elected official would be able to weather the investigation.

"This cloud has been over the mayor for some time," Spector said, referring to the state prosecutor's long-standing investigation into contracts approved during Dixon's tenure as council president, including one to a firm that employed her sister.

"She has rallied and performed magnificently," Spector said of the mayor. "And I expect her to hold her head up high."

Councilman Edward Reisinger, who arrived at City Hall around noon, said he was aware of the search at the mayor's house but was "focused on business."

"I don't have a crystal ball, and I don't know what this investigation is about," Reisinger said. "I'm just here to go to work."

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